Children bear brunt of conflict in Afghanistan, says third country report on children and armed conflict

The UN Secretary-General’s third report on children and armed conflict in Afghanistan, released today, recalls how 2014 saw more children killed or maimed amid rising conflict there than in any of the previous seven and a half years of monitoring in the country – but also highlights the Government’s progress towards ending and preventing recruitment and use of children.

Throughout the entire reporting period from 1 September 2010 to 31 December 2014, the report says 2,302 children were killed, and 5,047 injured. During that period, the Afghan Government faced mounting challenges amid what the report describes as “increased military activity and the deterioration in security” compared to the situation during the previous 1 September 2008 to 31 August 2010 reporting period.

Of 2,502 children killed or injured in 2014, almost half were casualties as a result of ground engagements with the Taliban and other armed groups. A further 664 resulted from IED attacks by armed groups, including the Taliban and the Haqqani Network. The report also highlights the use of children as suicide bombers by armed groups.

“These tragically high casualty numbers show that children are bearing the brunt of the conflict, and unfortunately this trend continues with the deterioration of the security environment into 2015,” Leila Zerrougui, the UN Secretary-General’s Special Representative for Children and Armed Conflict, said about the report.

“The killing and maiming of children from the indiscriminate use of IEDs in populated areas, and the use of children as suicide bombers, can only be condemned as flagrant violations of international human rights and humanitarian law,” SRSG Zerrougui added, reflecting the report’s recommendation calling for an immediate end to these and other violations by the armed groups.

The report expresses deep concern about the number of children killed and maimed, particularly during ground engagements pitting Afghan security forces and international military forces against the armed groups. It calls on all parties to “continue to review tactics and procedures” to avoid civilian casualties.

SRSG Zerrougui also highlighted the report’s expressed concern for what it calls “widespread impunity for grave violations against children by Government security forces, including against children in detention for alleged association with armed groups.”

“These children are first and foremost victims, and they should be treated as such,” SRSG Zerrougui said, while the report calls upon the Government to “urgently address this issue.”

Recruitment

Despite the difficult security context, the report highlights the “commendable progress” the Afghan Government and its National Security Forces have made towards ending and preventing the recruitment and use of children — after the signing of an Action Plan and the establishment of a road map specifying steps for achieving that end.

The report says that a Government decree criminalizing underage recruitment by the Afghan National Security Forces has been in force since February 2015, and “lies at the centre of all efforts to ensure accountability and prevent the recruitment and use of children by both the Government and armed group actors.”

“I look forward to working with the Government of Afghanistan even more intensively in the months ahead as we move towards fully implementing the country’s Action Plan for ending recruitment and use of children,” SRSG Zerrougui said.

The report calls for donor support, including sustainable funding for the “timely and effective” implementation of the Action Plan in line with the goal of the “Children, Not Soldiers” campaign to end recruitment and use of children in Government forces by 2016.

Note to editors: The 18-page report highlights the situation of children affected by armed conflict in Afghanistan, and presents information collected by the UN-led Afghanistan Country Task Force on Monitoring and Reporting. It covers monitoring of the six grave violations the UN Security Council has identified as affecting children caught in armed conflict.

The report in English can be accessed by clicking here.
Click here for infograph presenting key statistics drawn from the report.

For further information, please contact:

Steven Edwards
Office of the Special Representative of the Secretary-General for Children and Armed Conflict
Tel: +1 212 963-2383
Email: edwards@un.org

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